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Common brand names: Omnipen, Polycillin

Description: Ampicillin is a member of the penicillin class of antibiotics. It is an extended-spectrum antibiotic. That means it can kill more different types of bacteria than penicillin VK. But this is not helpful for treating most dental infections, and ampicillin can lead to more side effects.

Dental uses: Ampicillin can be used to treat:

  • Tooth infections
  • Endodontic (root canal) infections
  • Abscesses (especially those near both the sinuses and the gums
  • Gum infections
  • Periodontal disease

Ampicillin usually is not the first choice for these infections. Dentists prefer amoxicillin, a different extended-spectrum antibiotic. That's because amoxicillin can by taken by mouth. Ampicillin is usually given by injection. It might be used in people who cannot take medicines by mouth.

Ampicillin also is given to people who are at risk of developing a heart infection after certain dental treatments. This infection is called bacterial endocarditis. This is a serious infection. It can be fatal. People at risk for this bacterial infection take antibiotics before dental procedures that tend to cause bleeding. People at risk include those who have:

  • Artificial heart valves
  • A history of endocarditis
  • Certain forms of congenital heart disease
  • A transplanted heart that has developed valve disease

Bleeding can occur in procedures that:

  • Puncture or cut into mouth tissue
  • Manipulate the gums or the area around a tooth root

People who have had a total joint replacement also may be given ampicillin before some dental treatments. This helps prevent infections in those joints.

Dosages for dental purposes: The typical adult dose for treating a mouth infection is 250 milligrams to 500 milligrams every 6 hours. It should be given for 7 to 10 days.

As with all medicines, be sure to follow your doctor's prescription. Take ampicillin for the prescribed length of time, even if you start to feel better. Do not stop taking it without talking to your doctor. Stopping an antibiotic too soon may cause bacteria to become resistant to antibiotics. This means the antibiotics won't work the next time.

Concerns and possible side effects: Tell your dentist and physician about all the medicines you take. This should include over-the-counter vitamins and herbal supplements. Also, let your dentist know if you have had a sensitive or allergic reaction to any medicine. If you are pregnant or nursing, or might be pregnant, talk to your primary care doctor before starting any new medicine. This also includes vitamins and supplements.

People taking blood-thinning drugs (for example, warfarin) may be more likely to bleed while taking amoxicillin with clavulanic acid.

Ampicillin can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and yeast infections. Sometimes, ampicillin turns the tongue a black color. This is known as black hairy tongue. It often goes away.

A mild rash is a common side effect of ampicillin. It is usually not serious. But you may not be able to tell if this is a common rash or one that is a sign of an allergic reaction. Therefore, tell your doctor about the rash. People who are allergic to penicillin or penicillin-like drugs should not take ampicillin. Allergic reactions vary. Some people get only a mild skin rash. Some have a drop in blood pressure. In other people, the airway swells and they cannot breathe. If you take a medicine and begin to have difficulty breathing, get medical help right away.

Tell your doctor about any reaction to a prescribed medicine, no matter how minor it might be.

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